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Counting carbs may help with type 1 diabetes

Tallying the number of carbohydrates in the diet may be helpful to people using an insulin pump to treat type 1 diabetes.

Counting carbs may help with type 1 diabetes

Tallying the number of carbohydrates in the diet may be helpful to people using an insulin pump to treat type 1 diabetes.

It is widely recommended that people on insulin try to estimate the carbohydrate content of their meals to help calculate their insulin doses and  a few studies have suggested that carbohydrate counting can help people with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar levels. Other ways include paying close attention to portion size, using diabetes "exchange lists" and choosing foods based on "glycemic index" - a measure of how far and how fast a given foods sends up blood sugar. There is no definitive data to suggest the superiority of one method over another in terms of ease of use or blood sugar control. Type 1 diabetes arises when the body no longer produces the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin, due to an abnormal immune system attack on insulin-secreting cells. As a result, people with the disease have to take synthetic insulin - either through daily injections or an insulin "pump" that is worn outside the body, which continuously delivers insulin through a catheter placed under the skin in the abdominal area. Until now, no studies had looked at whether carbohydrate counting is specifically useful to people on insulin pump therapy.

To study the same, researchers from Italy recruited 61 adults on insulin pump therapy. They randomly assigned them to either learn how to count carbohydrates or serve as part of a "control" group. In sessions with a dietitian, participants in the carbohydrate-counting group learned how to calculate the amount of carbohydrates in each of their meals and estimate how much insulin they would need to "cover" those carbohydrates.

After 6 months, it was found that the carbohydrate-counters showed a slight reduction in weight and waist size, on average - possibly because they were paying closer attention to their diets or exercise habits. When the researchers looked at the whole carbohydrate-counting group, there was no clear effect on haemoglobin A1C levels - a measure of long-term blood sugar control. But when they focused just on the 20 participants who consistently counted carbohydrates for most of their meals, there was evidence of better blood sugar control.

The researchers pointed out that keeping tabs on carbohydrates, in some way, is clearly important for people with type 1 diabetes as is insulin and exercise.
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